Monthly Archives: October 2013

EDGAR WILDE CONTEST ~ Fifth Chapter

Chapter 5

 

“Ye say it was supposed to be worn by a hussy?” Amos Jones slowly sat himself down on the warped stair boards leading up to the front entrance of the cemetery administration building. “What kinda ornament is that?”

“No, it’s a posy holder for something called a tussie-mussie,” Shelby sat down next to him. “A ’tussie-mussie is a tiny bouquet of herbs and flowers, and the woman would put this aromatic bouquet into the holder, and then attach it to her hand to swing free, or else fix it to a blouse, using that chain and pin. She’d hold it close to her nose to remind her of her gentleman-caller. It’s really romantic, actually.”

“Yeah, but tell him the rest! It also was used to mask the stench of inadequate sewage drainage and horse manure that was common during the Victorian Age,” Edgar laughed. “Not so romantic after all!”

Amos pulled out the silver posy holder and brought it to his nose for a whiff. “Well I be. That’s gotta be lavender I detect. Imagine that — a hundred year-old lavender. Gotta say, I never thought to stick this thing close to my nose.”

“Whatever. I think it’s romantic,” Shelby pulled Edgar down hard beside her. “A lady likes to show favor. I think it’s elegant.”

“Anyway, Amos,” Edgar tried to steer the conversation, “that’s the answer to this puzzle. Have any more mysteries for us?”

“Got one more, since ye asked.” Amos grimace-smiled. “Weren’t gointa bother ye none, since ye done so much for me already. Ye’s kind to ask, though.”

“Let’s see it, then.”

“Meant to tell ye, yer granny stopped by and chatted a bit. Brought more vittles. That was right decent of her. Ye got a sweetheart of a granny. She sure can whip up a decent clam chowdah.”

Edgar detected a hint of bile creeping into his throat. Could Amos Jones actually be into his grandmother?

“Well, she’s pretty cool, I guess –”

“No, no! She got spunk, and mighty full o’ class as well. Bewitching is what she be. That’s the word, right theyah. Bewitching. Right decent to make a feller welcome around here. That Stelton woman only wanted to see what I was rummaging’ through upstairs.”

The mention of Cora Stelton made Edgar sit up straight. Cora had been a pain in Edgar’s side for as long as he could remember, and recent events concerning the forgotten St. Edmund witch trials — and a certain Lost Grimoire — back in the winter had not made her any more endearing.

“Cora Stelton asked about the stuff upstairs? What even made her even think to ask? Amos, did you show her all these antiques?”

“She asked about the upstairs first thing when she stopped by, which made me think to show her what I’d found so far. She didn’t want to know about it all, though. Didn’t even have the decency to pretend to be curious. She asked if she could borrow that dang box I found and then made her getaway, box an’ all, like a fox in a henhouse. Rudest woman!”

Edgar gave Shelby a glance, but said nothing.

“So what did you want us to help you figure out this time?” Shelby asked.

“Oh, right,” Amos dug into his pants pocket, and soon pulled out an odd, green-colored glass object. “Seen one o’ these before?”

“I haven’t,” Edgar said. “You found this upstairs as well?”

Amos nodded, glancing mischievously up toward the far window on the upper floor.

“Amos, you know this stuff isn’t yours, right?”

“Ain’t yers neither,” Amos rose from the stairs and began pacing. “Or that Stelton woman. Anyway, ye gonna get a shot o’ this one and go work yer magic? I got a plot to make ready and I ain’t gettin’ any more young.”

“Sure. Edgar, hold it steady and I’ll just take a picture of you holding it. That’ll give a better sense of it’s size.”

After Edgar and Shelby had left the cemetery grounds and were strolling by the many downtown tourist-traps that made St. Edmund a classic summer destination, Shelby finally allowed a deep giggle to escape her throat.

“Bewitching,” she leaned into Edgar and gave him a hard nudge. “Just think, Amos and your grandmother may have a need for that tussie-mussie yet!”

“There is no way that is happening!” Edgar cringed.

“But wouldn’t it be too cute? I can soooo see them feeding pigeons together, sitting in the park being all lovey-dovey on each other.”

“Not happening. And — a big eww for that disturbing image. Thanks a lot, Shelb.”

“Well I think he’s a right fine feller,” Shelby laughed, pleased with her spot-on imitation of Amos.

“Wonder what was up with Mrs. Stelton being so eager to rummage around up in that building, though,” Edgar said. “Really weird.”

“Edgar, do not even go there. She was just rummaging, probably looking for stuff for the Historical Society. Right? I mean, what else could it be?”

“I guess you’re right,” Edgar said. “It’s just — really weird.”

“You’re weird,” Shelby mocked playfully.

“You are the weirdest of the weird,” Edgar replied.

“You’re so weird, even weird people think you’re weird.”

“I’ll take that as sufficient admission of your being weird,” Edgar nodded, self-satisfied.

“Grrrr!” Shelby grabbed Edgar by the waist and began tickling him with merciless abandon.

 

EDGAR WILDE CONTEST ~ Third and Fourth Chapters

Chapter 3

“So what’s our new cemetery curator like?” Aubry Wilde stirred the simmering pot of clam chowder she’d been cooking for the better part of the morning.

“He’s nice enough,” Edgar said. “I think his accent is thicker than your chowder. He’s got Shelby and me tracking down some information.”

“Indeed?”

“He’s found some antiques in the cemetery administration building. He wants to know what they are and if they’re worth anything.” Edgar’s stomach rumbled as he watched his grandmother fill his bowl to the rim, then spoon a bird’s portion into her own.

“Oh, dear. I do hope he understands those things are not his to sell,” Aubry sat down across from Edgar and took a small sip of chowder. “What did he find?”

“The first thing he showed us turned out to be an antique page turner. It’s made of wood and beautifully carved. Look, here it is –” He passed his phone across the table. Aubry’s brow furrowed as she stared at the image.

“Well I do declare. What else?”

Edgar reached over and scrolled ahead a few pictures — Aubry smiled as a closeup of Shelby sticking her tongue out briefly filled the screen. Finally the picture of the second item froze into place.

“That doesn’t look pleasant at all. Have you found out what it is?”

“It’s a cork press, if you can believe that.”

Aubry nibbled her bit of chowder. “There’s just no telling what some people will do to try to make life easier. Is there actually a need for cork pressing?”

“Not these days. From what I understand, Victorian-age pharmacists mixed their own medicines, which they then had to bottle. A cork press allowed them to get the cork small enough to fit in the mouth of the bottle. Then the cork would expand again and seal it tight. Different-sized bottles required different-sized corks, which is why this thing has a number of spaces of varying widths. Anyway, he wouldn’t let us take the items with us, so Shelby took these pictures which we posted on the web for our friends to help identify. We’re actually about to go see Amos to let him know what we’ve found. I know Shelby will be relieved this thing isn’t a torture device after all.”

“I really should go introduce myself sometime soon,” Aubry stared out the window. “I’ve been unpardonably rude, I’m afraid. In the meantime, maybe you could take him some chowder? Yes, that would be splendid.”

“No problem, grandma. Just don’t give him anything that requires chewing,” Edgar laughed as he downed the rest of his bowl.

“Oh, Edgar –!” Aubry chided as she filled a container with soup. “Now take this, and tell him I’ll be by in a few days to pay my regards.”

Edgar held the hot Tupperware for a brief second before placing it back on the table. “Oww! Maybe I’ll let it cool just a bit before heading over.”

“Edgar, did Mr. Jones say where he’s from, or who hired him?”

“I didn’t ask,” Edgar replied, rubbing his hands together. “I figured the local government brought him in to replace Corinthian.”

“I’m sure that’s it,” Aubry replied. “It’s rather odd that they brought someone in from outside, though. Edgar, do be cautious about advertising those antiques all over the computer. We don’t actually know what he might stumble across in there. Mr. Harknell was the only inhabitant for so long; I don’t suppose we actually know what all is stored away in that cemetery building.”

“I understand,” Edgar said. “Do you have a paper bag to carry this chowder in, maybe?”

Chapter 4

Amos Jones ran his gnarled, arthritic fingers over what had turned out to be a cast-iron cork press. “Ye sure?”

“Pretty sure,” Edgar replied.

“Huh. Don’t sound worth much, I suppose.”

“Maybe you can re-cork half-finished wine bottles with it,” Shelby offered as she searched in vain for a place to sit. The dusty, seatless shed was clearly not meant for resting.

“No such thing as a half-finished bottle of wine,” Amos cackled. “Ye open it, ye finish it – that’s the respect ye pay a good bottle of wine. Anyway, appreciate ye sniffin’ this one out for me. By the by, I got another another one, ye know.”

“What – another antique?”

“Jest a little thing. A trinket,” Amos reached into the chest pocket of his overalls and pulled out a small piece of jewelry. “Looks sorta like a horn-a-plenty, don’t it?”

Shelby leaned close. “That’s beautiful!”

“Go ahead and hold it then,” Amos’s attempt at a smile looked more like an anguished grimace as he held the piece out for her. Shelby tried not to notice as she took it.

“There’s no pin,” Shelby said as she modeled it near her chest. “I thought it might be a brooch, but there’s no way to pin it on. It would be beautiful if it were, though.”

“It’s clearly made for a Victorian lady,” Edgar let his gaze linger as he contemplated a turn-of-the-century version of Shelby. “You know, we’ve got to get you some re-enactment outfits or something. You’d look amazing.”

“Thank you, kind sir!” she bowed. “We may have to arrange that — if you’ll finally let me help lead one of your cemetery tours. Now just let me get a picture of this–”

Resting the object on a relatively clean table, Shelby took a few shots, then handed it back to Amos.

“Almost tempted to let ye have this one, little lady,” Amos attempted another smile. “Aint gointa, but mighty tempted!”

“Thanks,” Shelby scowled. “That means a lot.”

“We’ll get back with you soon about this,” Edgar took Shelby’s hand as they made their way to the door. “Where did you find this one, by the way?”

“Up in the house, same as the others,” Amos motioned with his eyes to the top floor of the cemetery administration building. “Stuff’s everywhere up theyah, jest layin’ around. Thought someone had broken in when I first started explorin’.”

Edgar had spent many hours in the main building with former cemetery curator Corinthian Harknell over the years, talking about history, cemeteries, and everything else. The house had always been ready for visitors — so clean it looked like it had been frozen in time. Had Corinthian ransacked the place before he left? Or could there have actually been some sort of break-in? Without Corinthian around, they’d probably never know.

“Anyway, ye tell yer granny she’s welcome to bring over clam chowdah anytime she likes,” Amos held the Tupperware close to his chest. “I’ll surely be enjoyin’ this. Don’t get much good cookin’ these days. Mighty grateful.”

“She’ll be glad to hear it,” Edgar said as they turned to go.

“He’s really making himself at home, isn’t he?” Shelby said as they walked toward the cemetery entrance. “I guess he’s staying on then.”

“Yeah.”

“Feels weird, huh?”

“Pretty weird.”

“Well, I’ve got just the thing to cheer you up!” Shelby grabbed Edgar by his jacket sleeve and pulled him close. Swiping his top hat, she traded him with a long kiss. He was almost floating when she began to giggle, her kiss-perfect pout widening into a grin still pressed against his mouth.

“What is funny?” he tried to say through the smooch.

“I think,” she stepped back and placed Edgar’s top hat over her own strawberry-blonde curls, “that I would make a far better cemetery tour guide than you. Am I right?”

The contrast of black Victorian top hat with white summer cotton blouse and flowing purple and blue tie-dye skirt was too much. “I think I love you,” he whispered, pulling her close once more.

“I love you, too,” she playfully bit at Edgar’s ear. “But don’t think you can distract me.”

“Who’s distracting who?” Edgar said, his legs suddenly wobbly.

“All’s fair…”

EDGAR WILDE CONTEST ~ Second Chapter

“Do you think he’s going to be disappointed?” Shelby locked arms with Edgar as they made their way to the cemetery to share the surprising results of their online research with St. Edmund Cemetery’s new curator, Amos Jones.

“Who knows?” Edgar said. “My money was on it being some kind of ritualistic trowel. Good thing our Facebook friends set us straight.”

“I kind of thought it might be a shoe horn,” Shelby said. “Or an old, wooden spear maybe. I just can’t believe anyone ever needed this kind of tool to perform such an easy task.”

“Never underestimate laziness,” Edgar said. “Anyway, at least now he’ll know what it is.”

“Edgah Wilde,” Amos hooted as they approached. The curator was arm-deep in a little pond at the northeast corner of the cemetery. Beside him lay a pile of soggy weeds. “Would ye just look at this! Don’t think Harknell evah took much pride in his landscapin’. Got a dang mess in heah. And — I’m sorry, miss, but I never did catch your name.”

“Shelby Emerson, sir.”

“I’d shake ye hand but I got all this nasty muck on me. So, I suppose ye got some kinda answer as to the object’s true identity? It’s the Spear of Destiny, right? I knew I’d found me a real museum piece.”

“It’s not the Spear of Destiny,” Edgar replied, not sure if the old man was joking or serious about the object being the spear reputed to have stabbed Jesus Christ during his crucifixion. “I’m afraid you’ll be let down a bit, actually. It’s not very exciting.”

Amos shot Edgar a cold eye as he began wiping his arms with an oily towel. “I’ll be judgin’ that, if ye don’t mind. So, whatcha find out, then?”

“It’s a Victorian-era page turner. It was used to turn book pages.”

“Page turner, eh?” A painfully wide grimace revealed the few surviving teeth still clinging to his gums. “Hard to imagine anyone strainin’ so much they needed a tool to do the work for ‘em. Makes ye wondah…”

Edgar and Shelby watched the man trail off into his own thoughts. Finally the cemetery curator’s head jerked back as if he’d been smacked on the forehead. “Pardon me, just filin’ it all away. When yer my age ya gotta keep track of every scrap, otherwise it just goes blowin’ down the road like a tumbleweed.”

“I’ll remember that,” Edgar started. “Anyway, I guess we’ll be going.”

“Not so fast,” Amos said. “Wouldn’t mind ye using your talents again, if’n ye can stay for a spell.”

“You have another artifact?” Edgar said.

“Sure do,” Amos said. “Found it jest yesterday.”

“Really? Let’s see it, then.”

Amos propped himself slowly into some semblance of an upright, standing position. Edgar And Shelby followed patiently as one foot shuffled past another, inching their way toward the little shed where they’d first met him.

“Yer kind to indulge an old man,” Amos said as he reached to the back of a shelf. Edgar and Shelby drew close. “Now whatcha make of this wicked-lookin’ thing?”

“Looks like a torture device,” Shelby said, memories of her recent experience at the top of Heaven’s Garden flooding back to her. “For fingers or something.”

“Don’t it, though?” Amos said. “Hate to think why this metal contraption was made. Edgah, ye evah seen one a’ these before?”

“I have no idea what this is,” Edgar said. “But I know who might. Shelby, can you get a picture?”

Shelby backed up, her arms wrapped tight around her. Noticing her discomfort, Edgar stood and held her tight.

“Don’t worry. It’s not what you’re thinking.”

“You’re sure?” Shelby whispered. “Cause that look just like what I think it looks like!”

“I promise you, it’s not for fingers.”

“Even worse!”

“It’s not for torture,” Edgar soothed. “I guarantee you it has some mundane purpose.”

“Don’t let yer heart thump ovah it,” Amos laughed. “Nobody in a cemetery needs torturin’ anyway! Too late for ‘em.”

“Nice. That’s comforting, Amos,” Shelby scowled.

“Anyway, best be runnin’ along, then,” Amos chuckled. “See whatcha come up with. Thanks again!”